Aslam Tawana isn’t just a keen overlander. He’s also a champion for the overlanding life, helping first-timers discover its appeal. By Lea Erasmus
“Getting to remote and unspoilt places, that’s the magic of overlanding.” So says Aslam Tawana, an outdoor enthusiast from Kimberley and a passionate spokesman for the overlanding life. As Black Boy Adventures, he posts photos and videos of his overlanding trips to social media. His Toyota Land Cruiser has been lovingly transformed into an overlanding rig that goes by the name of Musafir.
But you don’t have to be an experienced adventurer with the latest gear to get into overlanding. That’s where Aslam comes in. His goal is to spread the word and convert others to the joy of overlanding. He shares his journey.
How did you get into overlanding?
As a child, my dad would take us for family picnics and camping to the banks of the Vaal River, about 30km north of Kimberley. This is where the seed for the love of the outdoor life was planted. Later in my life as an agricultural scientist I spent a lot of time outdoors and took up activities like hunting and fishing. This then inspired my own family camping trips.
We started off with a nondescript home-built camping trailer and later bought a Jurgens XT160 trailer so we could enjoy the African bushveld even more. The serenity of the bush is what inspires me. The opportunity to breathe crisp fresh air away from the polluted air we breathe in the cities. It’s about being in touch with nature (and out of touch with reality).
Four years ago, I bought our 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser 79 series when it had approximately 150,000km on the clock. We named it Musafir, which means ‘traveller’ in Arabic. It’s a fitting name because this rig allows us to travel to so many destinations.
What inspired you to reach out to others and what is Black Boy Adventures?
Whenever my family and I went on our expeditions, we would post about it on Facebook. Our extended family, friends and associates started asking us to take them along on the next trip.
We’ve also found that often when we arrive at a campsite, there won’t be any other black families there. This inspired me to start Black Boy Adventures as a platform for taking people along on our expeditions. We are using YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to introduce more people to overlanding through photos and videos of our recent trips. Thanks to social media, we can reach more black people. This has enabled us to convey the message that outdoor living and overlanding is for everyone.
Most recently, we took a group of first-time campers to Mokala National Park.
What was the Mokala trip like for your guests?
It was indeed an amazing trip. In the past our overlanding trips were just a group of men. For the first time we hosted three ladies as well as a couple. Most had never camped in their entire life – a big new experience! They bought their own camping gear, pitched and slept in their own tents. As their guides, we assisted them here and there, but it became a great learning experience for them. They got involved in the usual camp activities like preparing meals and cleaning up afterwards.
Most of these new campers had never seen wildlife in its natural habitat before. One of them, Kimberley’s big-name rapper Biggle Dimera aka Nceba Dube, remarked that his weekend was made. Why? Because he’d managed to see rhino in the wild and not in a zoo.
How do you use Tracks4Africa on your trips?
In 2021, we went on an overlanding trip as a group of friends named the Meerkat Squad. Ultimate Routes planned and booked an 11-day expedition through the Northern Cape for us. Tracks4Africa guided us through very remote routes with ease and even warned us of the track conditions. It was comforting to know our overlanding navigation was accurate and easy when we travelled along the back roads.
What are some of your top off-road destinations to date?
Verneukpan and Tankwa Karoo National Park are favourites. Next up, a friend and I will be doing a 7-day expedition to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. We’ll be staying at Polentswa and Rooiputs on the Botswana side.
Four tips for overlanding newbies
Start with what you have
You might dream of travelling to the Okavango in a proper rig. But if you keep deferring your dream because you don’t have the vehicle, you might never get to experience overlanding. On the other hand, if you start simple, you can really figure out what works for you. As Aslam’s experience shows, it’s better to build your kit strategically as you goals grow. As long as you have a tent, sleeping bags and cooking equipment, you can start travelling in your current vehicle. You don’t even need to own everything. These days you can rent camping gear and even fully kitted-out overlanding vehicles.
Know where you’re going
For anyone new to overlanding, the security and certainty of good navigation makes a big difference to the way you travel. One of our Ultimate Routes clients mentioned recently that often the passenger and driver get so busy with navigational tasks and worrying about the road, that the scenery, birds and wildlife are easily missed en route. We’d always advise to make your navigation an important part of your planning, leaving only the unpredictable road conditions and the weather up to chance.
Also read: What is overland navigation?
Do a dry run
Before you launch yourself on an epic overlanding adventure, try something shorter, closer to home. Plan a long weekend to a destination where you can put your equipment and skill to the test. Aslam’s trip with the first-time campers to Mokala National Park is a great example. Choose somewhere that offers you that sense of adventure, but with the knowledge that backup isn’t too far away. It’s better to discover any shortcomings when you haven’t made too big a commitment in time and effort.
Ask for help
Whether you ask other overlanders like Aslam for their tips and suggestions or make use of a booking service like Ultimate Routes for insight and travel guidance, there is a vast network of knowledge and first-hand experience to assist newcomers. Forums and networks of overlanding enthusiasts are easily found and provide valuable, up-to-date information for anyone willing to ask – novices and regulars alike.
Lea Erasmus heads up the Ultimate Routes team, which specialises in custom route design and accommodation bookings for self-drive, self-guided travel throughout Southern Africa.